The hard work to support the NHS in adopting biosimilars is not yet complete

It’s been three years since the first large monoclonal antibody biosimilar entered the UK market. In that time, the number of available biosimilars has steadily expanded, offering more cost-effective options to the NHS for treating patients in rheumatology, oncology, gastroenterology, diabetes and dermatology. With more biosimilars set to enter the market before the end of 2018, we are well and truly in the biosimilars era.

The NHS has come a long way since the introduction of biosimilars in expanding the adoption and uptake of these medicines. However, at Napp we recognise that the UK health system is under increasing financial pressure and we strongly believe that the hard work to support the NHS in adopting biosimilars is not yet complete. As an industry, we have a responsibility to help the NHS achieve up to £300 million in cost savings per year projected by NHS England for 2021, and to unlock further cost saving opportunities to support the delivery of sustainable healthcare in a value-driven environment1. At Napp, we believe that the key lies in improving confidence in biosimilars through education, building mutually beneficial and enduring partnerships and engaging with stakeholders from across the NHS. A key aspect throughout all of this is sharing the positive experiences of both healthcare professionals (HCPs) and patients, and, in particular, highlighting best practice.

We have built our medical, scientific and market access expertise in biosimilars from the launch of the first large monoclonal antibody biosimilar (infliximab) in the UK, and have continued to build our portfolio over the last three years, with two subsequent biosimilars (rituximab and trastuzumab). By making biosimilars a core element of our business, we have developed significant real-world experience and a deep understanding of the needs of the NHS and how the biosimilar market works.

There is no question that biosimilars have been a success in the NHS, with over 20 different biosimilars available in the UK market. But despite this, we still see a lack of confidence in biosimilars amongst some NHS decision makers and HCPs. We are working hard to actively change this through biosimilar education, building partnerships and engaging with key stakeholders.

“The way biosimilars are developed and tested differs from other medicines with novel concepts such as biosimilarity and extrapolated indications to understand. Involving and educating all stakeholders, including patients and the healthcare professionals prescribing, dispensing and administering biosimilars is key to building confidence in their efficacy and safety; this removes barriers to their adoption and helps maximise the cost-saving benefits from their introduction”, said Simon Cheesman, lead pharmacist at University College London Hospital (UCLH) NHS Foundation Trust. “The pharmaceutical industry working in partnership with hospitals has been key to meeting this educational requirement and has certainly facilitated the rapid uptake of biosimilars in the UK.”

We have developed industry leading knowledge not only in biosimilars, but the NHS as well, because the UK is not just our market, it is our home. As vice-chairs of the British Biosimilars Association (BBA), Napp has been instrumental in shaping the biosimilar landscape in the UK. The BBA’s role in advising NHS England has led to several successful initiatives, including establishing the NHS Commissioning framework for biological medicines (including biosimilars medicines) – which has driven
the uptake of these important medicines in the UK.

Our medical and scientific teams have been at the forefront of biosimilar education since 2013, because we understand the importance of explaining the science behind biosimilars and sharing proven patient outcome data with NHS decision makers and HCPs. Our Key Account Managers (KAMs) work at a local level, addressing the needs and questions of local HCPs around biosimilars, their place in the treatment pathway, and the savings that can be made through adopting biosimilars. Through localised educational activities, such as specialist-developed trainings and detailed patient and HCP materials, our KAMs have established themselves – and Napp – as expert partners to our NHS colleagues.

We dedicate our time and resources to education, because we believe that adding value is about more than just price. By providing value through support programmes and educational activities we can build confidence in biosimilars, because we know it is not just about prescribing, but about ensuring medicines are used effectively to improve patient outcomes. Informed and confident frontline NHS staff can communicate biosimilars in a positive and simple way to their patients, resulting in significantly heightened likelihood of  patient acceptance. This, in turn, supports clinicians and NHS decision makers to continue delivering high-quality,  sustainable healthcare.

Engaging and building partnerships which support the NHS in building confidence in biosimilars has been and continues to be a focus for us at Napp. In 2017, our market access team worked with the NICE Office for Market Access to organise the first multi-stakeholder engagement meeting looking at implementing biosimilars in cancer within a changing policy landscape. The partnership empowered the NHS and industry to share knowledge and ideas around biosimilar rituximab implementation, creating the opportunity for open and two-way discussion. By supporting these policy discussions, we helped the NHS ensure that it was able to realise the considerable cost savings that biosimilars can offer.

In 2017, we also worked closely with the British Oncology Pharmacy Association (BOPA) to support the development of their “Implementation of Biosimilar MABs in Oncology – Role of Pharmacy” guidelines. These guidelines outline what good biosimilar implementation looks like and facilitate the sharing of best practice in order to support HCPs. Through this partnership we supported growth in biosimilar confidence, at a time when oncologists were under great pressure to deliver results with a new treatment option.

Napp is committed to partnering with NHS policy makers, clinicians, commissioners and regulators, to ensure that the NHS can maximise the efficiency gains from purchasing our value-added medicines, such as biosimilars. Part of this is ensuring we help to provide educational activities and materials to our partners in the NHS. By focusing on education and building confidence,

Biosimilars can flourish, bringing the NHS one-step closer to the predicted cost savings of £300m and unlocking opportunities for further cost savings that could have a significant effect on the sustainability of the UK healthcare system1.

¹ NHS England. Biosimilar Medicines. Available at: https://www.england.nhs.uk/medicines/biosimilar-medicines/. Last Accessed: August 2018.

Paul Clark is director of biosimilars at Napp Pharmaceuticals. Created August 2018 UK/CORP-18035